The Straits Times | 20 May 2022
New S’pore-Pacific Alliance trade agreement to focus on tech, sustainability
by Sofia Hanna Romero
MEXICO CITY - Technology and environmental sustainability are among the key issues that Singapore, Mexico, and other Pacific Alliance (PA) members are discussing in the context of a new PA-Singapore trade agreement, said Minister of State for Trade and Industry Alvin Tan on Tuesday (May 17).
Mr Tan, who was on a five-day visit to Mexico until Thursday, said: “We now have the PASFTA (Pacific Alliance-Singapore Free Trade Agreement) with Singapore as the first associate member, and we are very pleased. What we are doing regarding the treaty is, for starters, working with Mexico - as well as the PA states - on a few initiatives, which are based on four pillars. The first being technology and digitalisation, the second is environmental sustainability, the third is connectivity and logistics, and the fourth pillar is people-to-people exchange.”
The minister was taking part in a discussion in Mexico City with Mexican veteran diplomat Miguel Ruiz-Cabanas Izquierdo on the relevance of the PA for both countries, the expectations for each country, and ways to keep the commercial relationship a priority during turbulent times.
The discussion, moderated by media platform Mexico Business News, was presented by Tecnologico de Monterrey, the top private university in Mexico, and Enterprise Singapore.
The minister and Mr Ruiz-Cabanas - former Mexican ambassador to Italy and Japan and Undersecretary for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs since 2015 - addressed the opportunities in each country for Mexican and Singaporean start-ups and small and medium-sized enterprises.
They also discussed how treaties such as the PA and the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership can help boost the connection between the two countries.
Besides the interests of Singapore in Mexico, Mr Ruiz-Cabanas said that Mexico sees Singapore as a key player in the Asian region because of the country’s openness.
Technology development, maritime communication, and sustainability strategies are some of the components that make Singapore an attractive and valuable trade ally.
“Mexico needs that. It needs a reliable partner in that part of the world,” said Mr Ruiz-Cabanas.
“In the end, we are complementary because (Singapore has) strength in technology and sustainability, while Mexico needs to be much more careful with the environment in general and how to promote sustainable development.”
Regarding the expectations of both countries for the PA, the ministers said they would learn from each other’s cultures, understand the way technology companies develop ideas and bring them into the market, and exchange knowledge on how both countries handle sustainability and energy generation.
One of the challenges the PA is facing is that countries across the Americas are not taking advantage of PASFTA benefits in terms of access to markets and trade facilitation. Both the Singapore and Mexico governments are working towards rectifying that.
But Singapore is also focused on sending a message to the world that “we are against the tide of anti-globalisation and we are making it clear that we want to make friends in business and learn from one another. The PA is a good signal in a world that seems to be retreating from the multilateral order”, Mr Tan said.
The PA also opens opportunities for Singaporean companies to go to Mexico and Latin America, as well as for Mexican businesses to expand towards Singapore and Asia.
Companies such as Advanced AI Global, a large, leading data and artificial intelligence company in Asia that provides solutions related to digital transformation, fraud prevention, and process automation for enterprise clients, is now in Mexico.
Mexico’s Plan B Ventures, founded by Mr Alejandro Blanco, is the holding organisation for Senor Taco Mexican Taqueria - Singapore’s first authentic street taco shop - as well as La Mexicana, El Mero Mero, and Casa and Lumbre restaurants.
Mr Tan invited more entrepreneurs and companies to capitalise on the new opportunities emerging from these latest developments. Leap2LatAm, he said, is a good place to start. The Leap2LatAm programme is the first to provide Mexican companies greater access to business opportunities and partnerships with Singaporean technology start-ups.
"They have been bringing Mexican companies to Singapore and Singaporean companies to Mexico, so if you have a good idea, connect with them and join the opportunities that have been made available," the minister said.